Jallikattu: The Most Traditional Bullfight

by - January 23, 2017

Jallikattu, Eruthazhuvuthal or Manju Virattu is an annual ritual of domination of bulls, practiced and Tamil Nadu, during the harvest festival of Thai Pongal, dating from the third century. The objective is to compete to see who manages to tame the bull.

It is one of the oldest sports seen in the modern era. The bull is not killed and the toreador does not use any weapon. Festivals in the villages are held from January to July, every year. The one in Alanganallur near Madurai is one of the most popular events. Special breeds are raised for this purpose, called Jellicut and Pulikulam.

There are actually three varieties of Jallikattu according to the districts of the state in which it is held with Vadi Manju Virattu in Madurai, Pudukkottai and Theni in Thanjavur and Salem, where the animal is kept in an enclosure. The Vaeli Virattu, in Sivagangai and again, Madurai, where the bull races freely through open space and the Vadam Manjuvirattu, in Tamil, where the cattle is given only 15 meters of rope and teams of 7 to 9 members have half an hour to master it.

According to ancient traditions, the Jallikattu have all the features of the game and rituals, in which strict rules and regulations laid down from the centuries are followed. The bull is usually painted in gaudy colors, covered with oil to increase the difficulty of catching it and with the horns are made wet. Before being set free, the animals are administered alcohol and injected the chili powder in the eyes to make them more aggressive. But unlike the Spanish bullfight they are not killed.

The practice, which has secular roots and which is held in Pongal, has as its protagonist a bull that, according to tradition, crosses the doors, leaving the corral behind and appears in the middle of the ring with a bundle of money hung between the horns. As soon as it crosses the arch, dozens of young people tries to catch the horn, another the tail and another one swings on its back. Participants in the race should try to take the valuable prize using punching, kicking, beatings with metal studs and wood. When they are thrown down from them, others appear. The animal, disoriented by what it has just encountered, rushes forward until it manages to get rid of all human presence.

Jallikattu is a bit like the spanish Corrida, and the intent is not to kill the bull but only to tame it, and in addition, the Matador in India is not provided any weapons. The method is the same as in Spain with bullfighting.

The term Jallikattu comes from the words Jalli (coins) and Kattu (pack). The stack of coins, which is tied to the horns of the bull, is the prize money for those who succeed in taming the bull. The origins of the challenge dates back to an ancient Dravidian tradition. According to legend, in ancient times, the challenge was initiated by young women to choose their husbands. The successful lucky "killer" was chosen as the husband. Later, during the colonial period this term was changed to Jallikattu which is the term that is currently used.

In the past in the challenge were used the Bulls from the town of Kangeyam, because they were more stronger and ferocious than any other species. In Karikkiyur, a remote village in the Nilgiri district, there are evidences of rock paintings, which are more than 3500 years old that show men chasing the bulls. Another painting dating back about 1,500 years was discovered in a cave in Kalluthu Mettupatti, about 35 km west of Madurai, between Madurai and Dindigul, which shows a man trying to control a bull.

Thousands of people congregate in mid-January to celebrate the Jallikattu, which is a daring sport that challenges local men to confront bulls in the streets of the city. This celebration is also known as Manju Virattu, which means to chase the bull.

Sometimes, they release more than one bull at the same time and are only involved men, who take this game as a token of his masculine strength. It is also common to make bets to see the boy, who on behalf of the family is able to knock down the bull.

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